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Anne Frank’s arrest might not have stemmed from betrayal

The new Anne Frank exhibit will open 11 June 2003 by US First Lady Laura Bush at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is commemorating its 10th Anniversary from April 2003 to April 2004 through programs that underscore the resonance and urgency of the lessons of the Holocaust for todays world TIM SLOAN / AFP PHOTO

The new Anne Frank exhibit will open 11 June 2003 by US First Lady Laura Bush at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is commemorating its 10th Anniversary from April 2003 to April 2004 through programs that underscore the resonance and urgency of the lessons of the Holocaust for todays world TIM SLOAN / AFP PHOTO

Who betrayed Anne Frank?

It’s a mystery that persists more than 70 years after police came to the Amsterdam building where Anne Frank and seven other inhabitants of the secret annex had been hiding.

The familiar story is that the police had been tipped off by an anonymous caller in a clear case of betrayal leading to the arrests on August 4, 1944.

But new research at the Anne Frank House re-evaluates that assumption.

Perhaps the Sicherheitsdienst or SD (German Security Service) didn’t come to hunt for Jews that day, but inadvertently found the two families in hiding while investigating another matter.

The researcher wrote: “In this new study, the Anne Frank House has not focused on the betrayal but on the raid itself: why did this raid take place, based on what information, and from where did this information originate?”

There had been illegal work and fraud with ration coupons taking place in the building, the study found. Two salesmen who worked in the building had been arrested for dealing in ration coupons. They worked for a company that dealt with raw materials for the food industry.

In April 1944, Frank referred to the pair’s arrest in her diary, writing that the pair had “been caught, so we have no coupons.” This suggested that the inhabitants of the annex had gotten at least some of their rations from those two salesmen.

“A company where people were working illegally and two sales representatives were arrested for dealing in ration coupons obviously ran the risk of attracting the attention of the authorities,” wrote Gertjan Broek, researcher at the Anne Frank House.

The study suggests that this illegal work may have brought police over and that they discovered the annex and the people inside by chance. While it doesn’t refute the possibility of betrayal, the study suggests a new theory.

Other questions about the raid

The study also raises the following points:

The primary roles of least two of the three policemen known to have been involved in the arrests were not to search for and arrest Jews. One worked on cash and jewelry thefts. Another worked in a division tasked to crack down on economic crimes and the illegal distribution of ration coupons and meat.

The phone number used to call the Sicherheitsdienst was not listed. Most private use of telephone lines had been cut off during wartime. “This creates a real possibility that the call, if it actually took place, came from another government agency,” the study says. It took more than two hours when the police arrived and departed, which is “longer than necessary for rounding up betrayed Jews in hiding,” according to the research. During that raid, two other people came and left the building without any trouble while the authorities were there. “If the authorities came specifically to arrest the people in hiding it seems unlikely they would have let anyone get away.” None of the people suspected of betraying the people in the annex have ever been charged as there has never been enough evidence.

Finding clues and new leads

After their arrest, the eight were sent Camp Westerbork, then to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Anne and her older sister Margot were then sent away to work as slave labor at the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. The sisters died there in 1945 of typhus.

Of the eight people in the annex, only her father, Otto Frank survived.

He was convinced, as seen through letters written in 1945, that they had been betrayed.

The Anne Frank House said it had looked into this matter because of its interest in “telling Anne Frank’s story as completely as possible.”

“Despite decades of research, betrayal as a point of departure has delivered nothing conclusive,” said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House in a statement.

“The Anne Frank House’s new investigation does not refute the possibility that the people in hiding were betrayed, but illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered. Hopefully more researchers will see reason to follow up new leads.”